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Gunfire in Central Jerusalem

Aired January 22, 2002 - 09:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news to report out of Jerusalem this morning. You are looking at a live picture of the scene where we are told dozens of ambulances have been dispatched. The gunmen, who allegedly started this, was shot by police. Ambulance services are reporting there have been casualties. It's really difficult to make from these pictures exactly what is going on.

What we can tell you is that this comes after Israeli defense troops raided what they call an explosive lab here on Tuesday, killing five people the IDF called terrorists. Palestinian sources disputed the claim that there was a gun battle, that the Palestinian had called the raid an assassination.

Now Palestinian sources said four of those killed were actually members of Hamas. We don't know if that is related to latest reports of gunfire.

Let's go to Mike Hanna who joins us from our Jerusalem bureau who perhaps can put this into context for us.

Mike, what is happening in Jerusalem right now?

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, at the moment all is a degree of confusion. In the background, you can hear the howling of ambulances as they drive down the road behind the bureau here to this center of Jerusalem, where within the last few minutes, there have been reports of gunshots being fired. We have seen a large amount of ambulances and health workers moving down into that area. At this stage, various reports out.

No reports of any fatalities yet in this shooting. However, one report does say that a person who carried out the shooting was shot by bystanders.

We do understand that as many as 10 people have been injured at this particular point in time, but the exact circumstances of what happened, we're still trying to clarify at the moment. We do know that gunshots rang out in the very middle of Jerusalem, just off Jaffa Street, which runs through the heart of Jerusalem, that as many as 10 people may have been injured. One person has reportedly have been killed, and that is the person who opened fire on a crowd in the middle of Jerusalem, according to the initial reports -- Paula.

ZAHN: Mike, we will stay on this picture as we try to figure out what's going on here. You say they're trying to clarify the circumstances of this gunfire. Is anyone suggesting this is related to the Israeli defense forces raiding these explosives labs earlier today, where five Palestinians ended up getting killed. Is this in retaliation for that?

HANNA: Well, it is too early to speculate about that, but what we can say is sometimes in the course of the day that we had an Israeli Defense Force operation in West Bank city of Nablus where four Palestinians were killed. They were all members of the militant Hamas movement. That is the only point of agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. The Israelis said that they attempted to arrest these men and they received gunfire. They opened fire in return, killing the four. Palestinians insist the four were attacked while they were asleep. They were killed in cold blood, effectively assassinated.

Now, in the wake of this, the Hamas movement has pledged revenge. One Hamas spokesman has said that it is now a question of waging all- out war against Israel. So in the wake of this report, some gunshots in the middle of Jerusalem will in all probability be linked, even though we can not confirm any formal linkage between these events at this stage -- Paula.

ZAHN: And can you also provide contacts for us this morning in which Mr. Arafat made some remarks to some visitors in his Ramallah headquarters, where he said, "Please God, give me the honor of becoming a martyr in the a fight for Jerusalem."

HANNA: Yes, well Yasser Arafat has been under virtual house arrest now for some six weeks. Israeli forces have encircled his offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He is not allowed to leave the area, and Israel has made clear that he's not going to be allowed to leave the area until he makes visible signs on clamping down on Palestinian militants.

Now this statement by Arafat, Israelis have been saying, indicates that Arafat believes that his struggle may not end before he dies. However, Palestinian sources say this was not his intention.

ZAHN: OK, our shot has frozen up with Mike Hanna. Once again, we can confirm reports of gunfire in downtown Jerusalem. Mike Hanna saying that so far officials have told me no fatalities reported. And while it is not clear what started this gunfight. There is a suggestion perhaps that the Israeli defense forces killing of five Palestinian earlier today might have something to do with that. We don't know that to be the case, but we will keep you posted on this story throughout the morning as details become available.

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